A review of tonight's Silicon Valley finale coming up just as soon as I know 400 Satanists in Boston...
Both Silicon Valley and Veep found themselves in interesting positions heading into tonight's finales, where their respective creative teams had taken the main character as far as s/he could go in their current position, and now had to find a way to get them out of it without it feeling like a hard and desperate push on the reset button. We'll see how Veep handles it (HBO didn't make screeners available at the time I'm writing this), but Silicon Valley solved its problem elegantly, and in a way that has me eager to see the next phase of Richard's journey.
There probably could have been a version of the show where Pied Piper was the enormous success everyone assumed once they got a look at Richard's beta. Even huge companies suffer problems, and embarrassments, and even fabulously wealthy people can be at risk of losing everything. The Silicon creative team is talented enough that I wouldn't have worried excessively had the end of this season gone in a different direction. But it would have been such a change in terms of milieu and stakes that the degree of difficulty would have been enormous.
So I can't blame Alec Berg and company for going back to the beginning: the guys (Big Head included) all living and working in the house, with no money (Erlich and Big Head having spent all their blog dough on rescuing Pied Piper from Gavin Belson) and even less respect thanks to the platform's flame-out. There's more room to maneuver here in terms of story and comedy, and it doesn't feel like a cheat, because this is how business works, both in and out of the Valley.
Companies fail and reboot themselves all the time, and some become hugely successful at something that was never the original intention. Flickr started out as a tool for an online multi-player game, Avon's founder originally gave out free perfume and makeup samples as a way to get women to buy books, etc. Even within the universe of Silicon Valley, Richard didn't even realize he'd built an amazing compression engine until he showed it to some of the other Hooli engineers. So Pied Piper rebuilding itself around Dinesh's video chat app seems like exactly the kind of thing the guys would do after the compression platform turned out to be too far ahead of its time. (And maybe it'll be something they can revisit if the video business works out for them.)
And the journey to get there was, as usual, clever and funny enough that I continue to have more trust in the endeavor than, say, Laurie does in Richard at this point.
Everything came together smartly throughout "The Uptick," like Gavin's animal obsession ending in the elephant's death (because he missed performing in the circus), which in turn forced him to buy CJ's blog, which in turn gave Bachmanity just enough money to save Pied Piper. There were lots of callbacks along the way (Richard pointing out that his lawyer is in jail, Monica invoking Peter Gregory's name when she refused to vote with Laurie), and absurd logic pileups (the other Raviga guy voting with Monica in hopes of winning her love), and while the Richard/Erlich rift didn't last very long — was, in fact, turned into a punchline, as we cut from Erlich insisting it would take a long time to trust him to the two of them partying with the other guys and Monica — T.J. Miller continued to be terrific at playing a more nuanced and human version of our favorite jester.
Previous finales had set up expectations of elaborate, insane jokes — though even the lemonade bit from last year couldn't hold a candle to the optimal tip-to-tip equation from season 1 — and this didn't quite aim for that, other than perhaps Erlich's description of how he arranged the meeting with the new venture capital firm. But I'd rather the show not force it, and this was a satisfying wrap-up to the season, and to this phase of the Pied Piper story.
What did everybody else think?